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No better plan can be pursued than that of introducing into general use the best classical authors through the medium of the most approved translations. They are thus capable of being enjoyed by all—and they require but to be known to be admired. A strange or a difficult tongue is then no longer an excuse for being ignorant of their contents. They should be presented, too, in such a shape, that while typography and binding are not disregarded, their cheapness may render them readily accessible. The Messrs. Harper have accomplished both these objects. The books in question are afforded at a reasonable rate ; while, at the same time, the binding is very neat and durable, and the printing does credit to American art.
We wish that publications of this description were more generally encouraged in our country than they appear to be.
The Economy of Health, f.c. By JAMES JOHNSON, M. D. 1
vol. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1837.
This is another instructive book from the same press. The learned author professes to follow “the stream of human life from the cradle to the grave”—and he intermingles his narration with " reflections, moral, physical and philosophical, on the septennial phases of human existence.” This is promising largely and dealing with rather sounding phrases—though we perceive at once by the work itself that the writer is no pretender, but handles his subject with a master's hand and in a style totally devoid of affectation. “ Utility” he professes to have been his design in its composition; and certainly we have never met with a production on the all-important and much discussed theme of health, which contained more valuable suggestions or threw greater light upon the animal economy. He divides life into ten septenniads ; ending of course with the seventieth year of mortal existence; and calling the few, sad years—“full of sorrow" as they are—which may perchance be allotted to any beyond that period, the "ultra-limites”—viz. from "seventy to naught."
There is a deal of practical information in the book on the subject of the body, its diseases and its capacities; the proper periods for intellectual and corporeal exertion; and the best modes of bringing into full play its dormant energies. All this should be attentively studied and thoroughly understood by parents and such as have the education of the young entrusted to them. Youth is the season for sowing not only those moral
and religious seeds which may spring up to the harvest in riper years, but also for laying up a stock of health which may enable its possessor to withstand the alternations of climate and the rigours of a laborious life, as well as the confinements and exertions of sedentary and professional avocations. How much havoc of health has been committed in the early years of human existence by injudicious or careless treatment, and how many bright promises of future excellence have been untimely blighted, the experienced physician alone can tell—though every churchyard contains its plentiful and mournful record. Although human skill can elongate man's brief career at the most to some fourscore years, and there is a limit in the counsels of Providence to his span of life which he is not permitted to pass, yet it may not only alleviate the sorrows and burdens of existence, soothe the sharp pain and calm the irritated pulse, but ofttimes arrest a premature march to the grave, and allow the ultimate victim of mortality" to strut his hour upon the stage.” Nor let this be thought a trifle, whilst health is considered one of God's greatest blessings.
The last topic in his book is “religious consolation”—the fitting attendant of that period which is to end, so far as time is concerned, in naught. The language in which our author discusses this part of his subject is as beautiful as the sentiments are honourable.
Martin Faber, the Story of a Criminal ; and Other Tales.
By the author of the Yemassee," &c. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1837.
That Mr. Simms is a man of genius we take to be unquestionable—that his genius, however, is not of the best regulated kind we consider equally undeniable. There is no endowment of Providence, mental or physical, of a more dangerous nature than this same quality of genius; none which is more likely “to perish in the using," or to produce fruits utterly at variance with the promise early held out. Without fixed principleswe speak not merely of morals but of order, restraint and moderation-genius is a curse instead of a blessing; for its vagaries nurture those erratic and evil propensities of man which are, unfortunately, too apt of themselves to run riot and lead their possessors into the wilderness of infidelity and licentiousness.
It must not be supposed from these grave introductory remarks, that we hold this author censurable for any extreme of
misapplied talent, or as having contributed any considerable quantity of food to the more depraved appetites of his fellow
On the contrary, until the above work fell into our hands we had seen nothing to warrant such an opinion. It was only when we read " Martin Faber” that we began to fear that he was enticed from the only allowable regions of fiction --we mean those where attempts are made through her agency to call into exercise the better feelings of our nature, by engaging our interest and exciting our sensibilities--and had begun to descend into the far lower and less honourable province of feeding a depraved taste or pandering to the sensual inclinations of man. In the former of these departments Mr. Simms had gained a deservedly high reputation, and we anticipated, what we trust will yet be the result, a gradual development of improved and improving powers cxercised with a view to the exaltation of our national literature and the amelioration of our national morals. We look upon
“ Martin Faber" as an imitation--not indeed without talent of some description of the bad German school -a school whose tastes and principles are totally diverse from the healthy and native propensities of the American character; and one which can never be popular here unless it be unduly fostered and encouraged, and invested in the garb of beauty by the industry of dazzling and misdirected talent. We hold that no greater curse could befall our land, particularly in the infant years of her literature, than the growth among us of works of fiction of the German-we should rather say Satanic-order, or those of kindred parentage, the modern French romances, tales, novels, dramas, or by whatever name it is deemed proper to designate the appeals which are constantly made in that country to the unholy promptings of corrupted nature. We would raise an early and umwearied voice against the first approach of this moral pestilence-for such we regard it-and emphatically would we do it when the poison is scattered by an author of our ow).
The present is a second cdition of this story. The first, published two years ago, was severely criticised, and Mr. Simms, in a laboured preface, seeks to deprecate censure. His claims to originality, which he appears anxious to establish, we are not disposed to controvert; but we consider him—however sincere may have been his design of rendering the work “purely moral”—as utterly failing in the attempt to reach this high aim. Let our author leave the imitation of unworthy foreign models, and devote his admitted powers to some nobler and worthier object.
Falkner; a Novel. By the author of "Frankenstein." New
York: Harper & Brothers, 1837.
This is a book which we cannot commend highly-nor should we be disposed to recommend it at all to our readers. It can be praised only by comparison ; and this as contrasted with “Frankenstein."
We do not dispute that Mrs. Shelley has produced a tale of much interest, and one containing many passages of considerable force and beauty-but, as a whole, the moral tone of her story is not a healthy one, and the sentiments are partially false and much exaggerated. Her hero is by no means a natural character; and a palliation is attempted for his offence —to apply to it no stronger term—which morality and justice could never approve. There is a stiffness, too, about much of the dialogue which does not exhibit the practised writer-and the trial of Falkner is heavily managed; presenting no striking incident, and not handled by one familiar with such details.
We confess ourselves not over indulgent to such productions, nor do we wish to see a taste for them encouraged. They illustrate no portion of history-develope no new views of human nature—and conduce in no particular to the advancement of religion or morals. To a mere work of fiction, having no reference to either of these ends, we are not disposed to accord our approbation ; even though we may recognise the hand of talent in some of the portraitures.
As compared, however, with her prior and most celebrated work, “ Frankenstein,” Falkner exhibits evidence of a highly improved taste. Indeed, we regard the former as one of the most disgusting productions in the language. We pity the man, much more the woman, who could dwell upon such scenes with other feelings than those of loathing and horror. This novel is worse than any of Maturin ; for these exhibit none of the coarseness and indelicacy which are inherent in such a tale as Frankenstein. It is but debasing the high attribute of genius to call the authorship of such works any evidence of that quality.
If Falkner, therefore, be a gradation in the progress of Mrs. Shelley's mind, we hail it as a decided improvement, and would urge her to proceed in the labours of her pen.
The Library of American Biography. Conducted by JARED
SPARKS. Vol. 7th. Boston: Hilliard, Gray & Co., 1837.
During the last quarter we have received another volume of this truly national work, which continues to be regularly issued. We hope that its circulation is sufficient to compensate both editor and contributors for their labours. The paper and printing of this work would do honour to the British press. Our eastern brethren have reason to congratulate themselves upon the excellence to which the art has attained among them. Unlike the miserable editions which are usually put forth of our new books that seem but intended to announce the ephemeral character of their contents, this publication is issued in a style which commends it to the shelves of any library.
Its contents, too, are worthy of the manner in which it is got up. They embody a fund of biographical information connected with the colonization and revolutionary history of our country which should be accessible to all, and most of which no American scholar should be without. We fear (and it is not to our credit that the assertion may be made) that the publication in question is regarded with more interest in England than at home. This should not be so. Let it not be said that it is too valuable and substantial a work to be popular ; or that solid encouragement is only extended to the trifles of the day.
This number contains four lives, all well written, viz.—those of Sir William Phips, Israel Putnam, Lucretia Maria Davidson, and David Rittenhouse. Each, except the third, has an appropriate dignity in its subject. In regard to it we may remark, that though the distinguished writer has made the most of her materials, and the lady seems to have been a sensitive and refined person, of great modesty and real worth, yet we are disposed to consider her as not entitled from abilities to the niche in the library of American biography which has been assigned to her.
We trust that the series will proceed regularly to its completion.
Nick of the Woods, or the Jibbenainosay. 2 vols. By the
author of “Calavar.” Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837.
Dr. Bird has presented us with a novel of thrilling interest. Every thing, indeed, which touches upon the wild men of our western forests and prairies; which is connected with the early